Is Reconciliation the same as Atonement?

Is “Reconciliation” the same as “Atonement”?

No, they are as distinct as cause and effect. Atonement is the ground on which reconciliation becomes possible. Unfortunately the Greek equivalents are not always correctly translated in our version. In fact in the only place (Romans 5:11) where the word “atonement” occurs in the Authorised Version it is a mistranslation for “reconciliation.” On the other hand, “make reconciliation,” in Hebrews 2: 17 would be quite correctly translated, “make atonement” (hilaskomai), as it is the same root and nearly always translated so in the LXX, Greek Version of the Old Testament. This, too, is the word the publican uses in his prayer (Luke 18: 13), and goes much deeper than merely asking for compassion. It might be translated, “Be propitiated by sacrifice.” Some shallow teachers having sufficient acquaintance with Hebrew, to know that Kaphar (making atonement) means primarily “cover,” have thought this was its only meaning and have whittled “atonement” down to “covering,” and asserted that it is a purely Jewish thing. They ignore the fact that the word has a secondary meaning, denoting that by which alone God can cover sin, namely, by making full satisfaction for His broken law. This has alone been effected by the blood-shedding of the Lord Jesus Christ: “He poured out His soul unto death.” The Old Testament has the word again and again but only typically and prophetically; the New Testament alone has the reality (see 1 John 2: 2 and 1 John 4:10— hilasmos, the same root again). Reconciliation becomes possible by atonement, but practical when the sinner turns to God with repentance and faith. The word for “reconciliation” (Katallage) “points habitually,” as Dr. Moule reminds us, “to the winning rather the pardon of an offended King, than the consent of the rebel to yield to His kindness.” ‘Be ye reconciled to God’ would then mean, secure while you can His acceptance.”

W.H.